No one likes to hear the “r” word in an educational setting. As a parent, hearing the word, retention can stir up strong emotions for you. The term is scary, carries a lot of weight, can be embarrassing and frustrating, and unfortunately, there is a negative stigma attached to it.

Children can be retained because of academic deficiencies and social-emotional issues. Once all of the data is presented by the educational team at the end of the day, you have to determine if your child repeating the same grade is the right thing to do. As a parent, you have that right!

As an educator, I would encourage you to consider the following before joining in with the team to make a decision that will impact your child’s future. Here are a few questions that you should ask:

Is the retention going to be beneficial to your child? For retention to work, the child must receive intensive intervention specific to their deficit. Simply stated, a detailed and intentional plan needs to be put in place for remediation because doing the same thing will yield the same results.

Why is the child struggling? What is the data saying, and is that data being used for intervention methods? There has to be something in place for checks and balances. Data drives instruction and determines mastery of a skill. If the deficit is not the focus, the child will always struggle in school.

Have all intervention methods been exhausted? Has the child received tutoring, taken EIP classes, and received differentiated and small group instruction?

Does the child have a learning disability? Many children with learning disabilities struggle in the classroom. Ensure that you meet regularly with the teacher (general and special education) to review their IEP and go over their accommodations and modifications in the classroom.

How does your child feel about retention? Your child has a voice, too. Retention can have a significant impact on a child’s social/emotional behavior. Children who are retained can feel embarrassed, withdraw from their peers, and sometimes develop behavior problems. How you communicate your decision to (or not to) retain them matters.

What does the research say? Research states that unless the focus is on the child’s deficit, remediation will not help. What does this mean? This means that instruction has to be intentional and tailored to the needs of the child. Retention is not about staying back, but it’s about learning information based on the child’s needs so that they can move forward. If this is not the goal, retention is not the answer!

Before making a decision that can impact your child and change their life trajectory, consider everything. Talk to the school about what can be done to assist your child, be clear about your expectations, and work together to develop a plan. Read and research different solutions as a family, and look ahead so that you can preview the next grade level’s curriculum. This will help you when you’re deciding on retention. Finally, invest in your child by signing them up with a reputable tutoring center that will assess them, develop a unique plan for their needs, and help them gain access to the curriculum on their level.

Retention can be the last resort if all parties are willing to work together to ensure that the child has everything that he/she needs to be successful.

Ty Lewis

3 thoughts on “Retention: Is it worth it?

  1. I have to say, I thought of a different “r” word when I first saw the intro!

    My sister spent 3 years in preschool instead of 2. She has Down syndrome, so it wasn’t a hard decision to make. Luckily, it happened at a young age, and she was surrounded by people who helped her feel supported instead of ashamed.


      1. Yes, nobody has ever made her feel “less than” just because she’s slower to learn. (At least, as far as I’m aware… I hope nobody has!) I wish that were true for all kids.


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